Excuse me while I cut myself a very, very large slice of humble pie.
Because I have never been backward in saying how much I loathed Eat, Pray, Love. And that Elizabeth Gilbert must be incredibly self-absorbed to have penned it. It’s on the very short list of books I could not finish – abandoned midway through the ‘Pray’ section because I couldn’t bear to read another whiny, sniveling word.
And then I read The Signature of All Things. And I loved it.
It’s been reviewed a gazillion times on Goodreads – there’s nothing that I can add, short of saying why it was a very different reading experience from that of Eat, Pray, Love.
Signature is a saga, but has pace – it spans decades and continents but Gilbert moves the story along at a decent clip and it kept me reading well into the night. In contrast, EPL is a short book about a short period in Gilbert’s life but feels like saga – so bogged down in boring detail I would’ve rather put sharp sticks in my eyes than keep reading.
“Because time does not object to passing – not even in the strangest and most unfamiliar situations – time passed for Alma in Matavai Bay.”
The characters are magnificently rendered in Signature – small details bring them to life. In EPL the ‘characters’ are real people… and I’m glad I don’t have to hang out with them.
“One cannot erase every reminder. In fact, one cannot erase any reminders. Her sadness was ceaseless, but she kept it quarantined in a governable little quarter of her heart. It was the best she could do.”
In Signature, Gilbert uses dozens of thumbnail sketches to create a sense of place – mosses, a dance imitating the planets, a binding cupboard, Tahiti, life on a ship – all are brilliant. Interestingly, the point of EPL (I think) was to convey a sense of place and its impact on Gilbert. Nope… I must have missed that bit.
“The cave was cool and silent, and smelled of minerals and soil. And it was covered – thoroughly carpeted – with the most luxuriant mantle of mosses Alma Whittaker had ever seen. The cave was not merely mossy; it throbbed with moss. It was not merely green; it was frantically green. It was so bright in its verdure that the colour nearly spoke, as though – smashing through the world of sight – it wanted to migrate into the world of sound.”
4/5 Let’s pretend Eat, Pray, Love never happened and Gilbert is all about Signature.
Alma craves wentelteefje (Dutch cinnamon toast) –
“The aroma made her weak with nostalgia.”